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What strength training exercise will help my kicking?

I dabble in martial arts a little bit. I like to use lunge and squat variations for strengthening my legs. What also works well is to do squat kicks and lunge kicks with ankle weights on. Alternate doing your kicks with and without the ankle weights on and feel the huge difference just in that one workout. For example do three sets each of squat and lunge kicks with the ankle weight on and then do the same sets of both without the extra weight. I generally use 5 lb. weights but you can start with less than that if you like.

For optimal results you want to also make sure that your balance is right. Without the ankle weights, take a BOSU ball (half ball) and do some squat and lunge variation on that as well. Great for balance and stability. You can also take an airex pad and perform some single leg squats for balance and stability.

A good kick needs a lot of strength and power behind it. But you also need to be flexible. Always fit in flexibility training at least twice a week as well as power training one to three times weekly. Plyometric training also known as jump training will give you a big boost of power. Hip swings and other dynamic stretches are important to do before you practice your actual kicks to prevent injury and produce more power. A tightened or overworked muscle will not be able to produce enough power to make for a strong kick. It’s important to have a good balance of flexibility and strength to make your kicks optimal. Also heavy squats and lunges with a good spotter is important at least once a week to build muscle mass thus building strength. Core training will make you stronger while you are standing on one leg which will automatically cause your kicking leg be able to kick harder. Core training is important to do every single day, crunches not necessary. 

Kicking is essentially a balance and pivoting movement off of the non-kick leg with obvious flexibility-mobility-power implications off of kicking leg. A great exercise for an all in one approach for kicking was developed by Gary Gray of the Gray Institute called the Lunge Pivot Matrix.

  • Stand in a neutral hip width starting position to begin
  • Initiate move by lunging with your right foot forward to a distance you can control, and immediately transition to a posterior lunge without touching in the middle.
  • Perform for desired number of reps and then proceed to move in the lateral plane - right lateral lunge to an opposite side left lateral lunge with right foot. Once you have performed desired reps, move into transverse plane by lunging with right foot to anterior left rotation and transitioning to posterior right rotation
  • Repeat above sequence with other leg. 
Bridging with one leg extensions will really help with kicking strength and stamina. Bridging works the core, the low back, the glutes and the hamstrings, which all power the swim kick. To perform the activity, lie with your back flat on the ground and then plant your feet on the ground, hip width apart and pointed straight. Your arms can be extended out to your side, palms up to avoid pressing into the ground. Lift your hips up so you have a ninety degree bend in your knees. Keep the weight in your heels as you lift your hips up. Try to keep your abs engaged and your trunk in one straight line. Avoid dropping your hips or arching your back. The weight should be in your shoulders, not on your neck, and in your heels. To add challenge to the exercise lift one leg off the floor extending the knee. Lift and lower the leg that is off of the floor eight times slowly. Place the extended leg on the ground and repeat with the other leg. Perform three sets of eight reps each side, lifting and lowering a leg. When you return both legs to the ground, make sure that the hips are not sinking. It is okay to bring the hips to the ground between sets for a quick rest. Proper form and alignment is more important than the number of reps and sets you are able to do. You will build strength and stamina through repetition, and your swim kick will get stronger and faster!

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